Remember when you used to devour the whole Hunger Games trilogy in a week? Or blitz through the Half-Blood Prince way past bedtime? Now, the only time you lay eyes on a non-uni related book, it simply blurs into the distance. Soon, you might even forget what it's like to touch those freshly printed pages, or smell the parfum or new ink. Those days of falling head over heels into the book, and whatever wondrous world of fantasy is presented, seem to be fading into a distant memory. So, how and why should we learn to love it again?
Leaving uni for summer, a lot of people have expressed their excitement at looking forward to reading again. As if, after months of library overload, it’s something new and fresh. Reading is such a versatile pastime, from the back of cereal boxes (although they don’t print the word search as much as before) to a cosy collection of short stories. But there’s something magical about summer reading, especially when basking under bird chirps and slathered in the scent of sunscreen. After all these weeks browsing JSTOR’s journal articles and chunky textbooks, which never seem to reach an endpoint, it’s quite nice to settle down and read. But the summer read. Without having to extract information, look frustratingly for sources, or indeed, without having to look for anything at all.
I think this summer reading teaches us a lot about why we skim eyes over dead trees tattooed with ink anyway. That we can be immersed into some words on paper, completely transported. In fact, research shows that reading helps improve cognitive skills, encourages active engagement of the brain, elevating empathy and critical thinking. And these soft skills are all super handy in providing stress management strategies and even leading to wider employability skills. Being able to take in different forms of knowledge, and understand the inner workings of a narrative, plot or fictional world does fantastic things for being able to think outside the box. Not to mention the benefits towards your wellbeing; reading lowers your heart rate, helping you feel relaxed, calmer and more focused. Just like any other skill, reading is an art which includes some form of discipline and concentration (especially with our collectively slippery attention span I touched on recently) to really reap its best rewards.
With so much calling for our attention, and a constant barrage of media being thrown at our faces, it can easily become a habit to slink away from reading. Building up the attention and focus to absorb and really get into the pages does take time and practice. Yet, it is so accessible to get into, whether it's locating a good book or wanting a different medium to engage with. From audiobooks and eBooks to charity shops and public libraries, reading is more accessible now than ever. So whip out that sundeck, or stretch out on the slightly sun-scorched grass and enjoy what wondrous worlds these words unfurl before you!
If you feel like you need any inspiration, or are overwhelmed by just how much stuff there is out there, I’m recommending a piece of reading for each month.
The Gathering: Anne Enright
The protagonist navigates gaps of grief following her brother’s death, and connects with her familial history. Both lyrical and fragmented, it uncovers the role of imagination to distinguish fiction from the murky waters of reality.
Anisha Minocha is studying English and Spanish at the University of St Andrews. She is a passionate writer and poet whose work has been published in anthologies, magazines, blogs and won competitions. Contributing to Sink Magazine, she is keen to utilise the voice of young people and share work through her creative writing blog. As a climate activist, she has combined her love for words and the planet in a performance of spoken word at the Royal Exchange Theatre in 'Letters to the Earth'. She also co-runs Young Friends of the Earth: Manchester and has organised workshops, participated in panels and spoken at Manchester Cathedral.
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